I'd been thinking about the passage of time,
and how (watching the clock
prowl around the hours) an hour
could be a year, while a year
could seem an hour,
I was glad to see him.
Death hadn’t knocked;
he just set down opposite me,
arranging his robes about him, and
lit a cigarette, like he owned the place,
which, in a way, he did.
‘I’ve been thinking about you,’ he said;
‘you know I come to everyone,
but I don’t like to come to those
who haven’t lived.’
His skin had a yellow tinge,
a moistened papyrus look.
‘Why don’t you get out of here?
Soon. Why don’t you go somewhere?’ he asked me,
looking intent on something,
on something in his own mind.
‘I could walk along the Ridgeway,’ I said.
His head tilted and he looked along his nose -
a long nose, a nose like half a suspension bridge.
‘No, you need to fly. Go to the pyramids.
Or, Pompeii. I often go there;
hop on the wing of an Alitalia jet
and, at the right moment, slip off
and glide to the empty, night-lit Forum.
I kind of like the place.’
‘Like me,’ he reflected,
flicking his ash on the carpet,
‘you can think how well-preserved,
thanks to that little incident and, like me,
you can people it with its old life again,
in your mind, in your mind’s eye ...’
‘I’m not sure,’ I said.
like a shooting star across the sky,
a thought of what the hell;
and I put my arm round Death
and we departed, soon to part – each to
our separate path,
our individual way.